Students and Teachers and Togetherness and Learning

Far From the Tree Reflections, Part 2

“There is no such thing as a baby–meaning that if you set out to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone. A baby cannot exist alone but is essentially part of a relationship.”–psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott

Yeah. These are the kinds of sentences in this book. I like to call them radical truths. Or food for thought (the kind that takes awhile to digest but is good for you….like froyo or something, just an example).

I was in class this week and thinking about this statement in relationship to students and teachers. If a beginner tango student is like the baby Winnicott mentions, then that student relies heavily on the teacher for existence. Ok, so obviously this is not a perfect analogy because a baby doesn’t have the ability to up and leave a parent if they don’t like the experience they are having. A student has more of this free choice. The point of the analogy though is asking ‘is there is a time when this relationship changes?’ If a beginner student is identified as a specific teacher’s student, will they always claim this identity? Does a change happen at a certain point?

In the last year, it was one of my goals to travel more to experience and learn about tango from new people. Philadelphia and beyond presented so many different encounters! What was interesting to me was that, on a few occasions, I was called “Lori’s student” or “a student of Sangha Space.” I also found myself claiming these titles when I went places as I met new people and made introductions.

“Hi, I’m Bridget from Sangha Space in Media.” Or “Hi, I’m Bridget, a student of Lori Coyle’s.”

In my experience, dancers don’t always have to verbally claim these student-teacher relationships. Sometimes it is visually apparent or evident in the way they feel. Certain teachers have a certain style that is recognizable in a dancer’s movement. Each teacher and each student is a unique person and often times, whoever we are spending our time around is who we share our uniqueness with.

So with this identity through relationship to our teachers or our spaces (studios, communities, etc), can we say that this identity changes at a certain point? Can we explain more about that certain point?

For me, I’m pretty proud to consider Lori Coyle as my Teacher….as in, the main teacher. The one I have actively studied with because I believe in her way of teaching (note: *studied, not just learned because I had an interest in the subject). Will I always identify as Lori’s student? Could that change at a certain point on a timeline?

Closer to Winnicott’s ‘baby and someone’ description, I think of my relationships with my parents. I know that I frequently say “I’m turning into my mother!” or “Are you really surprised by my actions? Have you met my mother?” or “I’m my mom’s kid.” Do I claim my bond to my mom all the time? Nope. Especially when she calls and says, “Oh, I just heard this beautiful song! This is the title and I want you to make sure they play this at my funeral!” …..I do not know this person. 😉  But maybe when she dies, I won’t be able to claim that identity anymore? Or maybe I’ll claim it more? Maybe that’s not the point the baby-and-someone relationship changes into just ‘baby’. Maybe we’re not just ‘students’.

I don’t know. Reader, what do you think?

{By the way, shout-out to all the dancers in the 100 level and beginner series classes in the last two weeks: Ya’ll are spectacular! Each dance I had was positive and each person was putting in some motivation, effort and good work. Even if we didn’t get everything right, it still felt super productive, useful and the togetherness was enjoyable! Thanks for a great and fun time 🙂 }

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